All scientific equipment aboard a WHOI vessel departing for a foreign port must be cleared out of the United States using forms recognized by the U.S. Customs Service. The forms are presented to U.S. Customs for certification by the Master of the vessel upon departure from the United States. Forms are retained by the Master until such time as the equipment is moved from the ship, when they are presented to the person (scientist or ship’s agent) responsible for returning the equipment to the United States.
The Master has the right to refuse the lading of scientific equipment that is not accompanied by certified export documents. Further, scientific equipment found on board without proper documentation when the vessel returns to the U.S. will be manifested and may become subject to import duties. The owner of the equipment retains financial and legal responsibility for the proper re-entry of equipment into the United States.
Customs Form 4455
Important Note: WHOI must notify U.S. Customs 24 hours in advance of any container being loaded aboard a WHOI vessel. See “AMS” details below.
When joining the ship in a U.S. Port.
If you are joining the vessel in a U.S. Port before it departs on an international trip you must provide the proper documentation to prove that your equipment is of U.S. origin. Otherwise, when returning to the U.S. your equipment may be charged import duties, which you will be responsible for.
The proper documentation is the U.S. Customs Form 4455 and International Shipment Summary
When filling out the shipment summary keep in mind that customs is looking for high value items, over $1,000. If you have anything valued over $1,000 you should list the serial # if you have it. You do not need to itemize every bit of gear. For example you can list: 2 boxes of laboratory consumables.
Please fill out these forms and forward the ORIGINALS to the Marine Operations Coordinator. Only ORIGINAL forms will be accepted. Faxes and copies are not accepted by the U.S. Customs service.
The Marine Operations Coordinator will give the Master all the collected forms. The Master will travel to U.S. Customs before departure and clear all the scientific equipment out of the country. The Master will retain possession of the forms until the equipment departs the vessel.
When joining the ship in a foreign port
If your equipment will be returning to the U.S. aboard the vessel you must prove that it is of U.S. origin or you could be charged import duties when returning to the U.S. The best method is to use the U.S. Customs Form 4455 and International Shipment Summary.
U.S. Customs will need to stamp the form when your gear leaves the U.S. Your shipping department or shipping agent should be able to have U.S. Customs stamp the form or you can contact your local customs office.
The Master will need the original form onboard to present to U.S. Customs on arrival into a United States port.
Customs will not accept copies of these forms.
The Marine Operations Coordinator will need a copy of these documents.
» US Customs Form 4455 (Certificate of Registration) with International Shipment Summary for Scientific Equipment (pdf)
» Sample Customs Form 4455 and Shipment Summary (pdf)
If it is not possible to have U.S. Customs stamp the Customs Form 4455 you will need to bring with you the original shipping documents from your shipping department or shipping agent.
There are two parts to these documents. A manifest, similar to the Shipment Summary, that lists all your gear in detail including description, country of origin, S/N’s and value. The second document is the Air Waybill if by airfreight or the Bill of Lading if by land or sea freight. It is best to have originals but copies are acceptable as a last resort.
The Reaserch Vessel Science Coordinator will also need a copy of these shipping documents.
Automated Manifest System (AMS)
The Automated Manifest System (AMS) is an electronic summary of all items that are entering the country (USA) aboard the vessel. U.S. Customs requires this information to be submitted into the national database before the vessel arrives in the U.S. from foreign waters.
If a container and equipment are loaded aboard a vessel it must be reported 24 hours before the loading of the container in a foreign port. If only equipment from a container is being loaded then the contents are reported prior to the vessels return to a U.S. port.
The Marine Operations Coordinator will submit the manifested information to AMS for the science party. Copies of the Customs Forms 4455’s and other shipping documents are utilized for the AMS submission.
While Marine Operations will submit documentation, the associated fee for this submission is the responsibility of the science party. This fee can be distributed among the science party if desired and financial arrangements are in place.
The Scientific party is responsible to follow all proper US export regulations for their equipment being shipped to a foreign port. Your Institution’s shipping department should be able to help you make sure the proper regulations are followed.